Yoga for Lats & Traps: 10 Poses to Stretch and Strengthen Your Back

10 min read
a girl is performing a yoga pose_thread the needle_yoga for lats and traps
Elyce Neuhauser post Reviewer
The article is verified by Elyce Neuhauser
Yoga Expert, E-RYT 500, Certified Meditation Coach

Stretch, strengthen, and lengthen your shoulders, neck, and back with 10 yoga poses that specifically target your latissimus dorsi and your trapezius muscles, creating a perfect lats and traps workout. These postures will help ease tension as well as work your back muscles for better posture and injury prevention. 

What Are The Lats on The Body and Why Are They Important? 

a male model with latissimus dorsi muscles highlighted_yoga for lats and traps

The latissimus dorsi, commonly referred to as the lats, is a pair of fan-shaped muscles that run from the shoulder blades and the armpit down the spine to the lower back. It is the largest muscle in the upper body and primarily serves to rotate, extend, and adduct the shoulder joint, and also assists in side bending, as well as in stabilizing your spine. 

Strong lats can keep neck and shoulder tension at bay while giving you better posture and a stronger core. The good news is that you don’t have to rely solely on pull-ups, swimming, or rock climbing to work your lats. Look no further than yoga for lats to stretch and strengthen them while adding a good dose of stress release.

What Are the Traps on The Body and Why Are They Important? 

a male model with trapezius muscles highlighted_yoga for lats and traps

The trapezius (or traps) is a muscle group shaped like a trapezoid that runs from the base of your skull, through your shoulders, and down to the middle of your back. It facilitates movement of your head, neck, and shoulders while stabilizing the spine and supporting good posture. 

There are three distinct parts of the trapezius: the upper traps help lift and tilt your head, shrug your shoulders, and lift your arms; the middle traps serve to stabilize the shoulders and also pull them back, and the lower traps can bring the shoulders down and stabilize the spine during twisting and bending. 

While push-ups and pull-ups can certainly strengthen this muscle group, your yoga practice can be just as effective in providing the movement you need to keep these muscles functioning properly. 

10 Yoga Poses That Will Benefit Your Lats and Traps

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

a woman is doing Child’s Pose (Balasana)_yoga for lats and traps

Child’s Pose is a seated resting posture that gently stretches your latissimus dorsi. 

How to Practice:

  • Start on your hands and knees.
  • Move your hips back toward your heels.
  • Lay your torso over your thighs and rest your forehead on your yoga mat.
  • Extend your arms out in front of you.
  • Hold for 10-20 breaths to allow the back and shoulder muscles to stretch.

Variations & Tips:

  • If you have sensitive knees or ankles, practice the pose on a firm cushion or blanket.
  • If your forehead doesn’t touch the floor, place a block or firm cushion underneath your head.
  • Holding this posture will lengthen the muscles and release any tightness, stress, and tension in the shoulders and back.
  • Elbows may be slightly bent if your shoulders are tight; alternatively, keep your arms alongside your body instead of stretched overhead. 

Cat / Cow Flow (Bitilasana Marjaryasana)

a woman is doing Cat Cow Flow (Bitilasana Marjaryasana)_yoga for lats and traps

The flow between Cat Pose and Cow Pose creates an undulation through the back and pelvis, which releases tension while lengthening and stretching your spine.

How To Practice:

  • Come to your hands and knees on your yoga mat.
  • As you inhale, extend your spine, tilt your pelvis, arch your back, and tip your head up. Broaden the collarbones and keep your shoulders away from your ears. This is Cow Pose. 
  • As you exhale, tilt your pelvis under, round your spine, draw your belly upwards, and soften your chin toward your chest. This is Cat Pose.
  • Continue this flow 5 to 10 times, linking your movement to your breath, and then rest in Child’s Pose. 

Variations & Tips:

  • You can also practice Cat/Cow seated in a chair with hands on the knees.
  • Cat/Cow aids in alleviating back pain and has the added benefit of a meditative stretch, especially when you sync your movement to your breath. 

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Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

a woman is practising Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)_yoga for lats and traps

This is an inverted yoga posture often practiced during Sun Salutations. When you hold the pose, it engages your entire body, strengthening your legs, back, core, lats, and traps. 

How to Practice:

  • Begin on your hands and knees.
  • Tuck your toes under and lift your hips into the air.
  • Firmly press your hands forward and down, and work to straighten your arms.
  • Keep a slight bend in your knees and deepen your hip creases to create length in your torso and spine.
  • Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths.
  • To exit, lower your knees down to the ground and sit back in Child’s Pose.

Variations & Tips:

  • Hug the upper arm bones into the shoulder sockets to engage your lats. 
  • Practice a deeper engagement by contracting the lats and hopping your feet forward to your hands to a Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana). Notice how the action is similar to a lat pulldown, with the upper body acting as the stabilizing force. 

The Downward Facing Dog pose is also among balancing poses that you can do as a beginner yogi. Try this and 9 more yoga arm balances in our article!

Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)

a woman is doing Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)_yoga for lats and traps

This engaging yoga posture creates strength and stability in your shoulders, chest, and back. 

How to Practice:

  • Begin on your hands and knees.
  • Place your forearms down, parallel to each other on your mat, with the elbows directly underneath the shoulders.
  • Tuck your toes under and lift your hips up. 
  • Hold the posture for 5-10 breaths.
  • To exit, lower your knees down to the ground and sit back in Child’s Pose.

Variations & Tips:

  • Keep a slight bend in your knees and press your hips up and back to create more length in your spine.
  • If you feel that you can’t effectively hold the pose, you may clasp your hands together and press the pinky side into the ground to create more stability and strength in the shoulders.  

Extended Mountain Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)

a woman is doing Extended Mountain Pose (Urdhva Hastasana)_yoga for lats and traps

This simple standing pose encourages proper spinal alignment. With your arms raised in the air, remember to stabilize the lower body and engage the core.  

How to Practice: 

  • Come to Mountain Pose (Tadasana), a standing position at the front of your yoga mat.
  • Inhale and extend both arms into the air.
  • Exhale to hug your navel in and lengthen your tailbone towards the ground to stabilize the spine.
  • As you breathe, continue to reach your arms towards the ceiling while using the traps to draw the shoulder blades down your back.
  • Hold the pose for 5-10 breaths.

Variations & Tips:

  • Fully extend your arms and feel the buoyant lift from your feet all the way up through your hands and fingers.
  • If your shoulders are feeling tight, bend your elbows slightly as you lift your arms overhead.

Standing Crescent Pose (Chandrasana)

a woman is doing Standing Crescent Pose (Chandrasana)_yoga for lats and traps

This variation of Extended Mountain Pose opens the chest and shoulders, works the trapezius muscles, and additionally stretches the side body and lats.

How to Practice:

  • From Extended Mountain Pose, interlace fingers together, with the pointer fingers released.
  • Buoyantly lift the side body and then hinge over to the right side.
  • Breathe into and expand the space between the ribs.
  • Stay for 5-10 breaths, then switch to the other side.
  • To exit, come back to the center, lower the arms, and return to Mountain Pose.

Variations & Tips:

  • For a deeper stretch, wrap your right hand around your left wrist and then hinge over to the right. Repeat on the other side.
  • Stabilize the lower body further by placing a yoga block in between your inner thighs and hugging your legs into the block.
  • Make sure you are not straining, especially if there is tension in your neck or lower back. Explore your range of motion slowly and breathe deeply.

Staff Pose (Dandasana)

a woman is doing Staff Pose (Dandasana)_yoga for lats and traps

This is an engaging seated yoga posture that not only offers a good stretch for your hamstrings but it supports better posture and spinal alignment. As it strengthens your trapezius muscles, it also alleviates neck pain.

How to Practice: 

  • Begin in a seated position on your mat.
  • Extend both legs out in front of you.
  • Flex your feet and press your heels into the mat to engage your legs without hyperextending the knees.
  • Press your hands into the mat next to your hips and isometrically press them back. Roll your shoulders back and down to open the chest.
  • Sit up well and lengthen your torso as you hold the posture for 10-15 breaths.

Variations & Tips: 

  • Engage your core while holding the pose.
  • If your back is rounded, sit up on a firm cushion or blanket.
  • If your palms don’t touch the ground, place them on blocks.

Thread the Needle (Urdhva Mukha Pasasana)

a woman is practising Thread the Needle yoga pose (Urdhva Mukha Pasasana)_yoga for lats and traps

This twisting yoga posture provides flexibility in your spine while simultaneously stretching the shoulders and the neck.

How to Practice: 

  • Start this pose on your hands and knees.
  • Thread your right arm underneath your left arm.
  • Lower your right shoulder and ear towards the ground and press the back of your right hand firmly into the floor. Hold the posture for 5-10 breaths.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Variations & Tips:

  • If you’re unable to bring your shoulder and head to the floor, place a firm blanket or cushion underneath them.
  • Keep your hips lifted and aligned.
  • Stack your shoulders to feel an even deeper stretch across the back.

Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

a woman is doing Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)_yoga for lats and traps

This backbend is often practiced during Sun Salutations. Upward Facing Dog opens the chest and strengthens your traps.

How to Practice:

  • Start this pose lying on your stomach.
  • Place your hands underneath your shoulders.
  • Press strongly into the yoga mat to straighten your arms and lift your upper body. Roll your shoulders back and down, lift the rib cage, and broaden through the collarbones.
  • With the strength of your arms, your core, and your legs, lift the pelvis, the tops of the thighs, and the knees off the floor.
  • Keep your legs strongly extended with the tops of the feet pressing into the mat,  and inner heels stretching back.
  • Hold for at least 5 breaths.
  • To exit the pose, either come into Downward Facing Dog or release back down into the ground on your belly.

Variations & Tips

  •  Engage your shoulder blades on your back to target your traps.
  • Ensure that your elbows are not locked; you may even keep them slightly bent for a deeper engagement in your shoulders and arms.

Eagle Arms (Garudasana)

a woman is practising Eagle Arms (Garudasana)_yoga for lats and traps

The upper body portion of this advanced posture effectively stretches the trapezius muscles.

How to Practice:

  • Begin in a comfortable seated position.
  • Extend your arms out to the sides; cross the right elbow on top of the left upper arm.
  • Bend your elbows and snuggle them in; bring the forearms together
  • Press the backs of the hands together, or for more stretch sensation, press the palms together.
  • Stay for 5 breaths; then repeat on the other side.

Variations & Tips:

  • If you have a hard time pressing the forearms or hands together, bring the opposite hand to the opposite shoulder.
  • Raise your elbows to shoulder height and move your forearms away from your face to deepen the stretch in your trapezius muscle.

Conclusion

Your yoga practice is a great way to sneak in a lats and traps workout that can improve the overall functioning of your shoulders, back, and spine.

By adding these ten poses into your yoga practice, you will:

  • Increase mobility in your head, neck, and shoulders.
  • Safely stretch the muscles that support your spine.
  • Improve your posture.
  • Build strength in your back muscles.
  • Release daily stress.

The information provided on the site is for educational & informational purposes only. If you seek diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice or want to make significant changes in your diet and health-related routine, please, consult a medical professional or healthcare provider.

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!



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